I was thinking a lot of this today as I shuffled along at my rather monotonous job. I came to the conclusion that there are, for myself, four examples of this that represent the ultimate in high-end, cry-out-loud-and-cringe drama. I'll take them on one by one.
#4 Crash (movie, 2004)
I understand that this film has some problems, but that doesn't take away the fact that it's pretty damn powerful. The one scene in particular that got me was the one where Hispanic father Daniel is confronted by Farhad, the shop owner who thinks Daniel ripped him off. In the scene, Farhad pulls out a gun and shoots at Daniel. Daniel's daughter Lara, thinking she has a magic cloak to protect him, jumps in front of him. Granted, everything turns out okay at the end (the gun ended up being filled with blanks), but for those three minutes, when you are certain the innocent little girl has been murdered and her father's face explodes in anguish, everything in you turns to ash. Just thinking about it today made choke up a bit.
#3 Bag of Bones (novel, Stephen King, 1998)
I fell in love with this book from the first time I read it. To this day, it is number two on my list of best King novels ever. The section that always gets me the most, however, is the bit towards the end, when the hero Mike loses the young woman he's starting to love, Mattie, when caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. It's a heartbreaking scene. Add to this the fact that the ghost of his dead wife and that of Mattie, herself, assist in the climax of the book (and add to that the horrors that befell the "evil" character), and it's a setup for a good amount of blubbering.
#2 The Body (BtVS season 5, episode 16)
It's unusual for me to get all gooey-eyed at a television program, but this one sure as hell did it for me. Here you have a daughter losing a mother, and discovering her, at that, and the emotions and fallout of this discovery are the basis of the entire episode. There is no music to be heard for the entire 43 minutes. The film stock is washed out and appears almost amber. Both the writing and delivery of lines were perfect. There were extended moments of uncomfortable silence. All in all, it was probably the most realistic depiction of death and its consequences that I've ever seen, in either film or television. It's an episode that I don't like to revisit very often, either. My chest tightens and my mouth goes dry every time while my eyes water. Even for someone who loves tragedy, I just find it too painful.
#1 Field of Dreams (film, 1989)
I think, if you were to poll only men on this subject, you would find that at least half of them - and that's a conservative estimate - would call this movie the biggest cry-fest of all time. "Dad, you want to play catch?" says it all, doesn't it? Anyone with unresolved daddy issues will undoubtedly cascade a waterfall at this point. I don't think I have to add anything more than that.